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Friday, December 19, 2014

Chicago blues band Po'Boy Special bringing energetic sound to the Metro


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

On its new EP, "Barely Gettin' By," Chicago blues band Po'Boy Special shows off the boundless energy that it creates on stage.

Po'Boy Special will open for Ethan Butler on Dec. 26 at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., Chicago. Captain Coopersmith, Bluefish Fellows and The Casual Ties also are on the bill.

The show starts at 8:15 p.m. and tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door, available at Metro's website at www.metrochicago.com.

I had the chance to talk to guitarist Anthony Barraco about the upcoming show.

Q - Great talking to you. The band has gone through several incarnations in the last year. How do you think the band's name reflects your current sound? Are you happy with how the band has evolved? 

I couldn't be happier with the band's evolution. The changes we've made in my opinion have been beneficial to the group.

From top to bottom, the current lineup doesn't have a weak link. Every member has a specific role and it's important to have the right people in place.

The band started in 2011 and it's no secret we've been through many members. Throughout our history we've had 13 people in the band, and without each and every person involved, we wouldn't be where we our today.

It took us a while to find our niche. We started out as some sort of hybrid to blues music.

We would get away from it here and there but for some reason, it would naturally pull back. Originally we called ourselves Mojo Walker. At that point, we were fronted by a male vocalist. 

We went to a format rarely seen after that - we had three girls front the band. That's when we changed the name again, calling ourselves Bittersweet & The B-Sides. 

In early 2014 Brandon James became our new vocalist. I thought The B-Sides had more of a feminine ring to it, so I decided to change the name again, and that's how Po'Boy Special came about. 

I wanted you to hear the name and know just by that alone we were a blues band. "The Po'Boy" is a staple at any blues club in Chicago, so do I think our name fits our current sound.

Not only do I think it fits, I think it's perfect!

Q - In sitting down to record "Barely Gettin' By," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? What would you like people to come away with the EP?

Our primary goal for the E.P. isn't as much for the fan as it is for the industry. In fact, I don't even know if there's gonna to be a hard copy printed.

The point of recording is to get yourself out there. We really needed new material to showcase what our band was about. 

http://poboyspecial.bandcamp.com/releases

I'm proud of everybody for the quality of work they put into it. We're really hoping to get our foot in the door in some of the city's premiere blues clubs. 

Chicago's tradition for blues music dates back to at least the '30s and is still holding strong today. There's a scene for the music we play and we want to be part of it. 
 

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you see Po'Boy Special fitting into it?  Do you have any favorite places to play? 

We've been paying our dues for what seems to be forever, we've played all over Chicago and one thing I can say about our city is that there is so much talent.

We've had the privilege of sharing the same stage with some very talented artists. Being a blues band, we get booked with every genre of music. It seems like we just fit in.

We were fortunate to catch a few breaks this year. In July, we got to headline the House Of Blues, which is always a memory you never forget and we're looking forward to closing out the year at The Metro.

But I gotta say a few places stand out on a smaller scale, be it sound, the room itself and most importantly hospitality. For that I'd like to take the time to thank The Cubby Bear, Beat Kitchen and The Double Door, all wonderful venues to play at. 

Q - Who or what are your main musical influences and how do you think they affect your music? 

I think everybody you've ever listened to has to some degree of influence on a musician, but when it come to Po'Boy Special,  there's a few artists that have helped mold our sound. I'm sure I'm gonna leave some people out but it all starts with the great Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon.

Another artist that is very important to us is Freddie King. He's probably had the most impact on us as a group, we honor him in the latest E.P. with a track called "Texas in Chicago." Mark and I wrote this as a studio track.

It turned out to be one of my favorite tracks, this song screams Freddie King. Magic Sam is another influence, along with Luther Allison, Koko Taylor and let's not forget B.B.King.

Q - What are the bands short-term and long-term goals?

We're not reaching for the stars, we do this cause we enjoy playing music. Sure if we could make a living playing our instruments I think everyone would jump at that chance, but with the Internet and the way music is distributed nowadays, it makes everything much more challenging.

We're hoping 2015 will be a good year for the band. We really would like to start meeting other bands that share the same interest in music as we do. 

As I said earlier, I think more than anything we would like to playing at the blues bars, Rosa's, Kingston Mines, Chicago Blues, and Legends, along with being involved in some family orientated environments such as festivals.

And if we can get signed along the way, that would make for an even better year!